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HISTORY OF THE NATIVE COURTS
October 10, 2014

The present Native Courts originated from the Court of the Datu or Native Court, which was established by Sir Rajah Charles Brooke in the late 1860s. HRH Rajah Charles Brooke’s in his communication to the General Council assembly on 11 October, 1870 “… confirmed the authority of the different Chiefs, to administer justice over cases of engagement of marriage, divorce, or division of property arising from divorce or death; such as cases to be settled in accordance with established customs or by rules laid down in the Mohamedan Religion, and duly recorded in the several native Courts.” The Native Court then was presided over by the principal Datu or Chief and dealing with muslim matters. Such jurisdiction and functions had been taken over by the Syariah Court. The jurisdiction and functions of the Native Courts have shifted and expanded far and wide over the 136 years into the administration of justice involving the native laws and customs of the native communities other than the muslim community. For the information of this August House, this Dewan Undangan Negeri originated from the General Council, which was first convened by Charles Brooke on 8 September 1867.

The Native Courts have been an integral part of the State civil service for the last 136 years. These courts have been playing a very important role in promoting and sustaining peace and harmony within and among the native races in Sarawak through the maintenance of law and order. The functions and duties of the Native Courts were discharged and performed almost solely by the Resident and Districts until 1 June 1993. The Residents, District Officers, Sarawak Administrative Officers and Native Chiefs and staff of the Resident and District offices were and are the actual persons discharging and performing the function and duties of the Native Courts.

On 1 June 1993 the Central Registry of the Native Courts was established in Kuching and took over the supervision and monitoring of the administration of the Native Courts. However, the Residents are still having powers to review and transfer of cases. Under certain circumstances, the Resident of the Division may order a stay of proceedings or stop proceedings. The District Officer of the District is performing the duties and responsibilities of the Registrar of the Native Courts where there is no such Registrar appointed by the State Secretary. Thus, the Native Courts are still part and parcel of the Resdient and District Offices. The Residents, District Officers and Administrative Officers are at the moment being relieved from hearing court cases. This duties and responsibilities are being performed by the Adminisrative Officers/Magistrates (Magistrates) attached to the Central Registry in Kuching. These Magistrates travel throughout the State quite similar to the "Circuit Magistrates" in the past.